I’ve recently begun writing for Huffington Post Teen. I just realized that I shouldn’t dump my current blog. Anyway, read my latest article for HuffPost Teen and know this — I’m going to try really hard to keep blogging here. But senior year is stressful! We’ll catch up soon, blog. :)
I have short hair; it’s been referred to as “dishwater blond,” which I don’t actually take offensively. It’s infused with too much product, but I honestly don’t care. A few inches south, my eyes are hidden by glasses that made me look like Austin Powers back when I rocked the pre-2010 Justin Bieber hairstyle. My teeth weren’t completely corrected by those braces I wore for two years — one of my canines protrudes farther than the other — but hey, it adds character. Of course, I’m seventeen years old, so acne is either rampant or hidden, depending on how many virgins offer blood sacrifices to Allah for the day.
Faces are so unique, but I believe that the stuff behind them is more important. Of course, that’s a cliche statement, but it’s true; what, honestly, did you learn about me from that monologue? Does my hairstyle point you to the conclusion that I diagnose every sentence I see or hear? Do my eyes give you the impression of a pianist? Of course not. You can’t tell things about a person like that. It’s so important to understand the inner workings of people.
I’ve been absent from Tumblr for about a month now, and it’s not been fun. However, when things are a burden, I don’t believe you should do them (unless they’re something grown-up and mandatory like paying bills or washing the car or going shopping). I simply didn’t feel like blogging. That’s all. But in my month’s absence, I’ve really started noticing things about people.
My senior year of high school has provided me with a new set of circumstances. My classmates, now more than ever before, are truly taking a hold of their future. Some are doing it independently while others need a hand to hold on every step of the way.
I’ve begun to notice underclassmen also. So many are longing for something to be a part of, something to ensure a brighter tomorrow. And so many others just skate through life, not really worrying.
I’m not saying that any one attitude is better than another — who am I kidding, honestly, of course the independent out-there attitude is my preference — but I’ve really started wondering. What lies behind people’s faces?
It’s starting to make sense now — the whole college admissions deal. They say that they have a holistic approach to admitting students. It’s really only obvious: a student with a 36 on the ACT who doesn’t do anything is bleak in comparison to a student with a lower score who is involved in everything he loves and passionate about his service to the world.
The surface is great, but what’s underneath counts more in reality, I do believe.
About a week or so ago, my mom (Childersburg High School’s Technology Integration Specialist) and my aunt (Talladega County Coordinator of Instruction and Personnel) informed me that my services were required at the county’s institute.
(Because so many of my friends have asked, here’s what institute is — as defined by a seventeen year old: A kick-off-the-school-year kind of celebration attended by everyone who works for the county Board of Education. At least, that’s how we do it at Talladega County.)
I, being a measly little high school senior, didn’t understand what I needed to do. Dress professionally? Walk out on the stage and represent Childersburg? Okay. I guess I could handle that. I didn’t really understand why I was doing what I did until today.
Talladega County’s institute this year included a parade of various groups of students and teachers and employees all across the county. In retrospect, it was pretty cool and a ton of fun for the teachers to see their school shining for the whole county.
And then, I was allowed to leave — but thank God I didn’t. (Insert public shaming for all of my classmates that decided they no longer wanted to witness the party.)
Because immediately afterward, the real fun began. (For me.)
Amber Garrett, an awesome senior at Winterboro High School delivered an amazing inspirational message to the crowd of educators, and the main point was one simple phrase — “Trust me.” Trust your students. Believe in them. It gave me chills and I don’t even teach. (Yet. Cough cough. We never know where I’ll end up.)
And then… drumroll… Dr. Tommy Bice — the State Superintendent. And what a speech it was. Dr. Bice is one hundred percent radical, doing away with unimportant rules like No Child Left Behind and implementing things that actually matter in the real world. In our worlds. He said a few things that resonated with me —
"We have done the biggest disservice to our smartest students."
"That baby was not a mistake." (Here, I should probably tell the whole story, but I’m not going to. Dr. Bice was simply talking about perspective — you never know what people go through at home, and when you learn, teachers, you must remember that it is not a shameful thing. Whatever people go through, whether it be obstacles like teenage pregnancy, homelessness, whatever — being anything but helpful and loving to your students is tactless. And never make your students think they’re shameful. Rant over.)
"If our students were so progressive and smart that we ran out of things to teach, wouldn’t that be an awesome problem to have?"
"Did you catch last night’s episode of Duck Dynasty? It was marvelous.”
(I’m paraphrasing heavily, Dr. Bice, if you happen to read this — my apologies.)
Today made me grateful to belong to “the model county for the state” (Dr. Bice, again). I am so proud of everything that Talladega County has become. And I know that today was a great way to kick off my senior year — a way even better than waking up at 6:30 on Monday morning and driving to my dad’s Economics class. No offense, Dad.
I haven’t written in awhile — the last few weeks of summer are always hectic, especially considering August for seniors in high school means that applications for college are open! I’ve been pretty busy, but it’s been extremely exciting and I love it.
I don’t really have anything to write about, so I’m going to talk about my favorite music. I’m going to make a list because lists are the greatest.
- Gaga. [Favorite song: Born This Way]
Believe me, I understand that Lady Gaga is pretty much the gay man’s queen. I don’t even care. I am a firm believer that stereotypes are stupid, and I can be a heterosexual Little Monster if I want to be. Gaga stands for a lot: equality, acceptance, love, and much more. I am definitely a young monster and haven’t always appreciated her music to the extent that I do now, but I have a feeling that my adoration for Gaga will grow a lot. She is honestly my favorite singer.
Oh, and she’s gorgeous. Don’t believe me? Watch the “Born This Way” music video.
Whether life’s disabilities
left you outcast, bullied, or teased
rejoice and love yourself today
'cause baby, you were born this way
- Regina Spektor. [Favorite song: Samson]
This woman is true talent. I believe that to be a fan of Regina, you have to be a smart person. Likewise, I believe that if you are a smart person, there is going to be a song by Regina that you like. It’s a pretty reasonable hypothesis. Perhaps my favorite album in my entire iTunes library is Regina’s Live in London — this woman sounds better in concert than in a recording studio. She’s after my own heart in that she plays the piano in every recording and every performance. You don’t find many people who are equally talented both vocally and instrumentally. If you have never listened to her, you should really check her out. (You might have heard her and not know it — she was highly popular for singing “The Call” on The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian soundtrack!)
Samson went back to bed
not much hair left on his head
ate a slice of Wonderbread and went right back to bed
oh he couldn’t bring the columns down
he couldn’t destroy a single one
the history books forgot about us
and the Bible didn’t mention us
not even once
- Ingrid Michaelson. [Favorite song: Mountain and the Sea]
Oh, Ingrid. I’m kind of in love with you.
Ladies, if you ever want to attract me, buy some huge-rimmed glasses and play an ukelele. You’ll get so many cool points.
Ingrid is one of the most beautiful singers out there. She sings flawlessly and is emotionally raw. Her music has been a wonderful escape since I discovered it several years ago. I am completely obsessed with her.
You call me a mountain
and I call you the Sea
I’ll stand tall, uncertain
and watch you swallow me
- Tegan and Sara. [Favorite song: Living Room]
My English teacher once told me that angry lesbians are the best singers. I have to agree. Especially with Tegan and Sara. They’re not always angry, but they make some amazing sounds when they are. I love these girls so much. They make the best music, honestly. Neither of them have a very typical singing voice, which is totally fine. They have more character than I’ve heard out of many singers. They truly deserve their position in the canon of pop music.
Well I hope I never figure out who broke your heart
baby, if I do
I’d spend all night losing sleep
I’d spend the night and I’d lose my mind
If I spend the night then I’ll lose my mind
- Alanis Morissette. [Favorite song: Hand in my Pocket]
Angry lesbians again. Well, not really, because she’s married and has a kid. But whatever. I love Alanis. My favorite album is, of course, Jagged Little Pill, and I honestly haven’t listened to many of her other albums. However, I did learn from Jagged Little Pill that sometimes being angry can invoke the most creativity. It’s amazing.
'Cause I've got one hand in my pocket,
and the other one is playing a piano
- The Head and the Heart. [Favorite song: Ghosts]
I seriously adore this band. My heart is hurting because they haven’t released anything in the last few years. One of the main reasons I love them is for their pianist. I’m so familiar with musicians who have pianists that play simple chords and pretend to be good, but The Head and the Heart’s pianist is literally awesome. Just listen to “Ghosts.” I can’t even begin to describe it.
I love their sound — a baritone lead singer with back up female vocalist whose voice I could only try to describe… it’s just fabulous.
Is it any wonder why we all leave home?
people say “I knew you when you were six years old”
but I’ve changed, I’ve changed, I’ve changed,
- Young the Giant. [Favorite song: Cough Syrup]
I’m pretty attached to these guys. A lot of my favorite music, I discovered from Glee. Young the Giant is no exception. When Darren Criss covered “Cough Syrup” in season three, I knew I had to find the original artist. Turns out, they were great. (I promise, Glee is good for something.) Their singer literally pours emotion into every song. Also, he doesn’t have an insane falsetto range like Fun. or Bruno Mars, so I don’t feel like my only hopes of ever being a decent singer involve castration when I listen to Young the Giant. (That was funny. Maybe.)
- Christina Grimmie. [Favorite song: Advice]
This girl… I’m definitely in love with her. I started watching Christina on YouTube several years ago. I remember hearing her cover of Demi Lovato’s “Skyscraper” and thinking, “Wow, this girl has talent.” And then I found out that she had an album and I bought it. (Funny story: I actually got suspended from school one time because my iPhone randomly started playing music and you aren’t — or weren’t — allowed to have your phone at school. The song? Christina’s Ugly. It was hilarious.) I have always admired Christina’s dedication to her fans and her strive to always be herself. I doubt she’ll ever read this, but Christina is amazing. I actually just bought her brand new album, With Love, today.
Don’t let go of good times
and let the bad ones know you feel fine
and wear your heart out on your sleeve
love is all you need
- Of Monsters And Men. [Favorite song: Little Talks]
Once again, this is a group to which I’m definitely a new fan. I absolutely love their unique sound, though. They write about meaningful events, and they’re one of few bands that I actually make an effort to listen to their lyrics. I can’t wait for this group to release some more stuff.
There’s an old voice in my head that’s holding me back
Well tell her that I miss our little talks
- Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. [Favorite song: Home]
There are no words. This band is just magnificent. And I’m sort of getting lazy.
Well holy moly, me oh my
you’re the apple of my eye
girl, I’ve never loved one like you
I definitely didn’t realize how long this would take.
Favorite bands and songs change daily, but these have always meant a lot to me.
I live a pretty boring life. That’s irrelevant. So now I’m going to write about my walls.
During the summer of 2012, I took a long look at my basement. That’s not a good starting point.
My house has three floors with a few rooms on each floor — trust me, it’s not as massive as a “three story house” would typically be. My parents and my brother and I lived on the third floor in the three bedrooms. The middle floor had another guest bedroom, a dining room, a living area, and a kitchen. The basement had another living area and a junk room — I mean bedroom — and a kitchenette. And a bathroom.
And I took a long look at it.
My room upstairs was wonderful. It was painted blue and had posters and road signs all over the place. If you’ve ever been to a T.G.I. Friday’s or a Zaxby’s, you could imagine the walls looking like that. But after being in that room for five or six years, I was ready for something different. Fortunately, I am a person lucky enough to have a change every so often.
So, as I’ve stated multiple times now, I took a long look at my basement. There were piles and piles of unorganized nothingness all over the place. The bedroom had a tiny twin sized mattress on the floor and was surrounded by books and boxes and a few too many insect habitats. But I decided that I was going to move into it.
So, I cleared off the bed and decided that I was going to sleep on that ratty mattress until I had the bedroom clean enough to actually make it a bedroom. I worked tirelessly for the first few weeks of my summer to clean up and I finally got around to moving some furniture. The only point in this whole two story move when I would need my mother’s assistance was when it came to removing the hideous beige paint from my walls.
She promised she would help me.
Eventually, after habituating the space, I decided that I would take matters into my own hands. I wanted the walls to be less ugly. My only weapon was a Sharpie.
The long story short: My walls now have over four hundred tattoos ranging from a picture of earphones with musical notes erupting from them, a drawing of the Sorting Hat, my favorite song lyrics, the entire poem “Chops” from The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and a relatively hidden section of my wall where I list personal achievements so I can look at them when I feel bad about myself.
Apparently, my mom loves my walls so much that she wants to leave them drawn-on when I go to college next year.
Looks like she’s never going to get around to painting.
And I like to say that I’m not sad anymore.
July 23, 2010, my grandmother — known by her grandchildren as “Big Mama” — fell asleep for a very extended nap.
All grandparents teach their grandchildren life lessons. I’m not going to go into those. But I am going to share a memory that still makes me smile whenever I think of it.
Big Mama and I used to argue a lot.
She and I both play piano by ear and would frequently jam out on her baby grand — and, even more times than that, she would make me play a mini-concert for her. She helped ignite my fire for performance, I know. But for Big Mama, that wasn’t enough. She wanted me and my piano with her wherever she went — something that my then 13-year-old mind didn’t understand very well. Her solution: “Jackson, I want you to record yourself playing some songs.”
My response, always: “I will!” And then, years later, I still hadn’t.
One day, she just got fed up with it. I mentioned that we argued a lot — I should clarify that the only thing we ever argued about was the piano recordings that I never did.
She called me at my house and started yelling at me about how I needed to record some music.
I hung up.
She decided that she was going to call back and fuss at me some more.
I decided not to answer. Of course, this taste of rebellion against my poor grandmother was almost more than I could handle, and I spent the entirety of the four rings sitting right by the answering machine, wondering what was to come from my feisty, clearly annoyed grandmother. And, boy, did I get it:
Into the voice mail, she said, “Little bastard won’t answer the phone.”
You’re probably laughing now — I am too — but at the time, I definitely wasn’t.
I remember my dad being not too far away from the answering machine. He had definitely heard what my Big Mama said. And he laughed for days. I was just upset. I don’t even know why. Maybe I didn’t like being called a “little bastard,” maybe I was just mad that Big Mama won that fight. Who knows.
I never really realized that the only reason Big Mama wanted these recordings was so that she could brag on me to her friends. So she could force them to listen to songs that I had played and say “that’s my grandson!” I also never realized what joy she got out of telling people about me until she died and all her friends came to me at her funeral knowing every little thing about me.
I probably would’ve made that stupid recording.
Somehow, I think that if she knew what joy I got from remembering that little argument, she wouldn’t be mad at me anymore for never making those recordings.
Big Mama left behind a lot of fantastic people.
Her husband — “Papa” — is one of the greatest men I know. He’s smart, wise, and truly one of the only people above 70 I know I can talk to and not feel like there’s an insane generation gap overshadowing the point of our conversations. Papa, you’re one of the most supportive people in my life and I wouldn’t trade that for the world.
Her daughter — my aunt — bears a striking resemblance to this wonderful woman every time I have a conversation with her. I remember talking to Big Mama about anything from future plans to music, and about three years ago I realized that Vicky was just as good at doing that same thing. Vicky, you have truly been more than just an aunt to me in the past three years. I don’t really know how to tell you that any other way, but even that doesn’t do justice in describing your role in my life.
Her younger daughter — my mom — is just freaking amazing. There’s no other way to put it. I’ve learned more from my mom in the past couple of years than I could write in a book. (Well, actually, a lot of the stuff I’ve learned from Mom, JK Rowling did write in a book.) Mom, you’ve shown me the perfect balance of basket case and strength, nostalgia and forward movement… You’ve displayed well-roundedness in all the ways I’ve needed to see it most.
Her awesome grandchildren — my cousins and my brother (and I guess me… am I allowed to call myself awesome?) — I’ve never seen people like us. We’ve grown so much in the past few years. Jacob’s a sophomore in college, I’m a senior in high school, Annie’s a freshman, and John David’s a 6th grader… that felt so strange to type. I’m going to exclude myself for a minute because I really want to do some bragging: Big Mama couldn’t’ve asked for a better group of grandchildren. I can honestly see why she loved bragging on you — us — so much.
Big Mama, you’ve proved to us that nothing can stop growth. Not even you.
Thank you for giving all of us enough happy memories to where the sad ones can be overshadowed most of the time. If anyone reading this is planning on going away for an extended sleep, remember that. Happy memories are good for the reason stated above.
We love you.
And if there’s one thing I know for sure, I’d give anything to be called a little bastard one more time.
(And when I think of that, I just have to smile.)
Tomorrow, I start my sophomore year of high school. And believe it or not, I’m really not that afraid of going. I’m not sure if I will have the time to write any more letters because I might be too busy trying to “participate.”
So, if this does end up being my last letter, please believe that things are good with me, and even when they’re not, they will be soon enough.
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Steven Chbosky
I have never loved a book like I love this one. I realize that it’s very mainstream and lots of people have had the privilege to love it just as I have, but that does not make it any less of an amazing book.
Let me tell you a little thing about myself: I don’t really like to participate. Perks was an eye-opening novel for me — not because of the sexuality, the drugs, or even the depression — but because Charlie’s lack of participation resonated so strongly with me.
I’m the type of person that goes through life with one very close friend at a time. I definitely want to clarify that I’ve never truly been lonely, but sometimes life does get a little hard. My best friend is going to college soon, and honestly, that has scared the daylights out of me. What am I going to do when she leaves? Our friendship is wonderful, of course, but my participation-buddy is going to be three hours away.
I’ve really been scared. Terrified, actually.
(She writes a lot about her fear of college — well, here I am writing about my fear of her leaving.)
However, for some reason, the odds of the world are working out in my favor.
I mentioned recently that I bought a weekly planner to keep up with my life in — let me read you some excerpts from some of the past few days’ events.
- July 17: “Went to Mugshots with Paige and Nichole”
- July 19: “Saw The Conjuring with lots of friends”
- July 20: “Hung out with Nichole and Tamia”
- July 21: “Watched Pitch Perfect with Dailey, Lauren, Nichole, and Paige”
This is seriously pretty lame, but I don’t do these kinds of things often. I’m very glad that I’ve been making myself participate more. I feel as though some people — many people — have the innate characteristic to be social and to do things, but my social trait is recessive. I just have to remind myself that I don’t automatically think, “Hey, Jackson, you should participate in something today.” Sometimes I just have to consciously think that. It’s an interesting life.
I really do identify as a wallflower sometimes, even though I am pretty social when I remind myself to be.
(On a completely unrelated topic, I recently cut off my hair. I am no longer rocking the bowl cut that I have enjoyed for basically all 17 years of my life.)
I don’t know, man. Allergies. I’ve literally sneezed thirty times in the past five minutes. I don’t know if it’s the bowl of Oreos and milk I just consumed (and I don’t need to hear anyone’s comments about how healthy that isn’t), the infestation of fleas in my house that my family is currently battling with strong-smelling flea bombs and flea spray, or just the fact that God wanted me to not be able to breathe today, but it’s getting old. Quick. (He types as he sniffles.)
Last night, I had delicious burgers with two of my friends (who also blog, which makes them better people in general), Nichole and Paige. Because we are stereotypical teenagers, we went to a bookstore before we ate. No, that isn’t stereotypical for teenagers, I know. But for smart kids who like words… it’s just what we do. While we were there, I thought of something.
Those of you that know me know that my favorite YouTube and twitter personality is Tyler Oakley. He’s crude, rude, and socially unacceptable, but good gosh, he’s hysterical. In one of his… ahem, less controversial… videos, he shared a way he kept track of his year in 2012. Basically, for those of you who don’t want to follow the link, he kept a calendar during 2012. Each day, he wrote something that he did that day in the calendar.
So — that was what I thought of while we were in Barnes & Noble. So I bought a planner. I have an iPhone, so I’m definitely not going to be using it to plan stuff, but I did want a calendar that I could start my senior year. The first date in the planner is June 28 (I don’t even understand) but it goes through December of 2014, so I may keep using it until then. I really think that it will be a great thing to look back on after I graduate college and see — this is what my life was like four years ago. Those of you that know me well know that I hate being in pictures. I love taking them and I would much rather be behind a camera. Also, if you know me extra well, you know that I either do things extremely consistently or very irregular. So naturally, this will be a perfect way to document my life consistently where pictures from my senior year in high school won’t exactly do my senior year experience justice.
I can’t wait for school to start back — yes, I know it’s weird — and I can’t wait for the rest of my life to start happening. One of the most traumatic experiences a person can have is knowing that they are prepared to do something but being forced to wait for a while to do it — just kidding, of course; I’m not exactly a very experienced person. But being ready to apply to schools since April and not being able to apply until August has had its effect on me. I’m counting down the days until applications open. I can’t wait.
I realize I’m not exactly famous and I don’t have a ton of people following me on this blog, but I want to take this moment to thank everyone who cares enough about my life to attempt to follow my horrible writing style every time I post. I love having people in my life that support me greatly. It’s just a wonderful feeling.
I love you guys.
I don’t even think I’m emotionally and physically ready to write this. I’ve got my Fanta Orange in hand, my on-the-go rough draft of my New York City shenanigans open in the notes on my iPhone, and my running playlist blaring (like, what even… running playlist? Okay). There are clearly no better circumstances to write this post than the ones I’m currently present in. So let’s get going.
A couple months ago, my mom decided that she wanted my family to go on a fun trip. Well, let me start that again. About a year ago, my mom and dad decided we needed to go on a fun trip. Living in Alabama automatically means that the stereotypical “fun trip” equals “beach trip.” We wanted something different. Our original plan was to fly to Boston and rent a car and do a little self-guided tour of the New England area. Apparently hotels were so expensive in that area that the trip wouldn’t’ve been worth doing. So a couple months ago, Mom came up with the perfect alternative: New York City. All four of us had been before, but we had never been at the same time. So this was a brand new experience for us.
And now the day-by-day New York summary begins.
Tuesday morning, July 9th, my family and I woke up at four in the morning to get ready to go to the Birmingham airport, where we were to have a direct flight to the La Guardia airport in New York City. Well, life doesn’t always work out so easily. Apparently our plane didn’t make it to Birmingham the night before, so we no longer had a direct flight. Some very kind Delta workers got us on two separate flights to Atlanta (Mom and John David left at 7:00, and Dad and I left at 8:30). We were on a plane to La Guardia (in first class seats, I must point out) by 12:30. Of course, my parents and I were still a bit angered that we got to New York at 4:00 when our original arrival time was 10:30, but John David never failed to bring up “At least we got first class seats!” I will admit, that was cool.
So we got to our hotel, the Grand Hyatt on East 42nd Street between Vanderbilt and Lexington Avenue, and freshen up to head to Brooklyn. Our original plan was to take a subway to the Brooklyn Bridge and walk across — but, life gave us lemons and we just had pizza.We took a Subway across to Brooklyn and ate at Grimaldi’s, which is underneath the Brooklyn Bridge. It was literally like sitting in Hades. It had to be 200 degrees. Of course, heat rises and we were on the second floor — and it was brick oven pizza, but it was hot! It was all worth it when we got our pizzas, though! The sausage and ham pizza was my favorite (like — why was I ever a vegetarian? I probably thought that 50 times on this trip!), but we had a sausage and pepperoni pizza that was pretty delicious too. I think I ate 5 slices. Who cares — I was on vacation.
After we ate, we walked around Brooklyn Bridge Park, which had the most welcoming view of the Manhattan skyline. It had just rained, which was awesome — the air was cool and the humidity was pretty low. I loved getting to see the skyline turn on its lights — especially the red, white, and blue lights of the rising Freedom Tower. Eventually we headed back Grand Central Station, which is connected to the Hyatt, and headed to bed. Day 1 was exhausting.
My mom booked a bus tour of New York for July 10th and 11th, so that was the first thing we did on Wednesday morning. We went to pick up our tickets in Times Square and hopped on a bus heading Downtown. My mom had scheduled a tour of New York University for the 10th, so we hopped off the bus at Greenwich Village. We went to the welcoming center at NYU and let them know I was there, and then we headed to the NYU bookstore to pick up a t-shirt to add to my immense collection of college shirts. That bookstore was absolutely awesome. Of course, by that time, we were really hungry, so we started the hunt for a good restaurant. We must have walked by at least twenty restaurants before we found one that my mom approved of — the Grey Dog in Greenwich Village, however, was worth the wait. I had the most delicious cheeseburger and french fries ever. Also, it’s worth noting that I witnessed the use of a dumbwaiter for the first time in my life at Grey Dog. I don’t guess I’m a very experienced soul.
We toured NYU, which was an incredible experience for me, and then we caught the Downtown tour bus heading back Uptown on Broadway. By the time we got back to Times Square, we were hungry all over again. (We ate so much on this trip.) We had dinner at Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar right in Times Square. Oh my gosh it was amazing. I had something called “Volcano Chicken,” which consisted of lots of vegetables and two chicken breasts coated in chipotle dressing — however, one of those chicken breasts was traded for a heaping scoop of John David’s macaroni. Let me tell you about this macaroni. It was fabulous. Just try and imagine this: A heaping bowl of baked macaroni, topped with bread crumbs and crushed Gold Fish, cheese, bacon, diced chicken, more cheese, and chives. If someone would like to volunteer to try and make that, I’d be totally willing to be a taste tester. It was amazing.
Thursday morning, the 11th, we headed to Bryant Park for a little “Broadway in Bryant Park” — an awesome hour-long Broadway preview concert held in Bryant Park every Thursday. We saw some of the cast of Stomp as well as a new musical, Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. While we watched and listened, I snacked on a flank steak sandwich from a 'wichcraft hut in Bryant Park. Alabama needs to get ‘wichcrafts. They’re delicious.
After we had our fair share of Broadway previews, we made use of our bus tours and took a bus Uptown. The day before, we had a “tour guide” for the Downtown bus that honestly doesn’t even deserve the title of tour guide. Let’s just say that our expectations were set very low for our tour of Uptown. So when “Red Deborah,” our Uptown guide began asking if anyone spoke languages other than English and addressed all of us in our native languages, I was impressed. She showed us Columbia University, Harlem, and the Upper East Side with eloquent words and knowledgable information. Let’s just say that Red Deborah got a good tip from the Barnett family. Oh, and I may have just spent a good ten minutes looking on the bus tour’s website trying to find our guide and give her a good review.
When we got back to Times Square, we had an early supper at Shake Shack, located about a block or two west of Times Square. And oh my gosh it was amazing. Why are there no Shake Shacks in Alabama? Why? Best burgers, like, ever. After our really awesome supper and a cool conversation with a German guy who had been touring the world that sat beside us in Shake Shack, we headed back to the hotel to freshen up. What were we freshening up for, you ask? My favorite event of the whole trip: Wicked. I’m actually having a hard time continuing this story right now because I’m not actually in the Gershwin Theatre watching Elphaba defy gravity. And my emotions are flaring up. I want to see it again so badly.
We had the best seats. We were to the right of the theatre, about nine or ten rows from the front. Glinda tossed her hair a whole lot and Elphaba was really green and the orchestra was amazing and there were flying monkeys and Lindsay Mendez (Elphaba) and Katie Rose Clarke (Glinda) and Derek Klena (Fiyero) were absolutely amazing. Mom and Dad were particularly happy to see Carol Kane as Madame Morrible, although I didn’t recognize her at all. Apparently she’s in a lot of TV.
When Wicked was over, we carried ourselves bittersweetly back to our hotel. I had been looking forward to that show for months, and while it was absolutely amazing and is now my favorite musical ever, I’m still kind of sad to say that it’s over. Oh well. I’m pretty determined to see it again.
We finally got in bed at about 12:00 — seeing shows can keep you up pretty late — and we woke up late Friday morning, July 12th. We hiked all the way to Grand Central Station and took a subway to Battery Park, where we then took a ferry to Liberty Island. Seeing the Statue of Liberty was amazing… then humid… then rainy. We took lots of pictures and then loaded the boat again. By that time, we were irritable and really hungry — especially considering it was about 2:00 p.m. and we hadn’t had any food since our early dinner at the Shake Shack the night before. We managed to hold ourselves over on some sketchy pretzels and — according to my parents — delicious hot dogs at a vendor in Battery Park.
After that, we swiped our metro card a few times and headed to the Upper East Side. We went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and saw maybe 2% of their exhibits. When we were too tired to walk any farther, we went outside and sat on the steps of the Met. I felt like Blair Waldorf. And yes, I did get mad when people sat above me. How rude of them.
When we got hungry, we walked to a little restaurant in the Upper East Side that mom found on 4 Square or something called Luke’s Bar and Grill. I had the most delicious meatloaf and macaroni, and at that point, I felt like Nate Archibald without all the family problems. (Yes, I proudly watch Gossip Girl. Judge me.) Finally, we were too tired to exist, took a subway back to Grand Central, and fell asleep before 10:00 p.m.
Saturday morning, July 13th, was our last day in my favorite city. Dad, John David, and I had plans to bicycle around Central Park, while Mom was more keen on spending some time in Bloomingdale’s. (I didn’t realize it, but apparently that store’s a pretty big deal. Okay.) I had a chicken gyro at a street vendor in Central Park for lunch, which was actually delicious. It took us about an hour to bike the perimeter of Central Park, and then we met back up with Mom at the Magnolia Bakery in Bloomingdale’s. And sweet Jesus the vanilla bean cheesecake I had there was all kinds of heavenly. If you’re reading this whole huge post and you want to be jealous of something I did in New York, you should be jealous of the cheesecake. It was like eating a slice of God. No joke. After I stuffed my face, we went to a little restaurant called Jackson’s Hole between 2nd and 3rd avenue on 64th Street. I ate some potato skins, which were pretty good, but I clearly had way too much food.
We went back to the Hyatt, got our luggage, and took a taxi to La Guardia, where we had a direct flight to Birmingham and arrived at around 6:00. Believe me, I was incredibly happy to be home. It was weird. I don’t usually feel like that — but I guess spending five straight days in the same room with my family got exhausting.
I learned a lot on this trip — some stuff about college (which I might post later), some stuff about food, and some stuff about the storyline of my favorite musical… It was pretty incredible.
And now that I’m writing about my experience in New York, I’ve also learned that I don’t have to write everything in lists. Wow — that’s interesting to come to terms with.
I had a wonderful trip to New York — if you ever get the chance to see the city, don’t pass it up. You won’t forget it.
For some reason, I’m up entirely too late — I got home from New York City today and I’ve been eating too much and watching too many YouTube videos. I checked twitter, which is part of my immediately-before-going-to-sleep ritual, and I learned that Cory Montieth, the actor who plays Finn Hudson on Glee, had died. Of course, I didn’t believe it — who willingly believes tragedy? We all need some proof. Well unfortunately, there was no dispelling of rumors — CNN and E! Online and too many others released press information for me to argue with the validity of this circumstance any longer. I guess it’s time to acknowledge the fact that one of my favorite characters from Glee — which, obviously, is one of my favorite television shows or else I wouldn’t be writing this post — has died.
What can I do about it? Well, nothing, really. I’m just a devoted fan who is wondering how Glee's writers are going to figure out this conundrum. I guess that may be a little selfish, but, really — I'm a kid from Alabama who knew Cory only through the medium of Fox. Of course, my prayers are with his family and friends and cast members, but nobody wants to leave their contributions at that.
So here’s my contribution: Lessons from Finn Hudson.
- Body image issues are normal and okay. In the second season of Glee, the Glee Club decides to put on the play The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I’ve never seen this play, but I understand, however, from my experience with Glee and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, that it’s a pretty racy show. Finn plays a character who has to go through several scenes in his underwear alone. Cory Montieth was a fit guy — not too big, not ridiculously skinny, but clearly not incredibly toned — but his character, Finn, was very nervous about spending all this time in a pair of boxers. He went to other, more fit, members of the Glee Club for advice — much of it was just bad advice. I don’t know if this lesson was good or bad or just overall neutral, but I do remember feeling like I wasn’t alone. Television so frequently plays off the body image issues to be stereotypically female — it was a welcome change to see a guy going through the same sort of situation. I learned from Finn that I shouldn’t freak out if I feel uncomfortable in my body — it’s actually a relatively normal, not-weird, common feeling. Not that it makes feeling it any better, but it is helpful to know I’m not alone.
- You can still figure out your life even if everything doesn’t go your way. In season three of Glee, Finn applies to a school for acting in New York. He doesn’t get accepted. I’m going into my senior year of high school next year and I’ll be applying at lots of schools — two of the more selective schools I have in mind are Brown and Vanderbilt. I know that I don’t have a huge chance of getting into them, but it won’t be the end of the world if I don’t. In season four, Finn was beginning to work out his life pretty well at a local state school — it made me realize that just because you have a Plan B, it doesn’t mean that it can’t make you as successful as Plan A.
- Never plan your life around any one person. I failed to mention in number 2 that Finn’s main reason for applying to the school in New York City was because his long-term girlfriend, Rachel, played by Lea Michele, had a great chance of getting into fictional NYADA (New York Academy of the Dramatic Arts). Now, let me make this clear: There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for Lea Michele. But realistically, I’m not going to meet some gorgeous brunette who’s starred in Spring Awakening and Les Misérables on Broadway, so I just need to remember that no one person deserves my whole life — especially as young as I am. Finn planned his life around getting into a school in New York so he could be with Rachel — when his Plan A failed, he had to fall back on his poorly developed Plan B. I never want that to be my situation. Love is good and all, but until I’m done growing, my own success is more important.
Yeah, Finn taught me a lot of lessons through his own failures. But sometimes, that’s how we learn best. Through watching other people fall down.
I’m not Cory Montieth’s friend, I’m not his family, and I surely didn’t star on Glee — I mean, honestly, I’m not that attached to the guy. It’s funny how people automatically love you and develop a ridiculously complex relationship with you as soon as you die.
I am, however, saddened by his death. I can attest to the part of Cory I knew the most: Glee will not be the same without him.
Quick interjection before blogging commences: I love the song "That Time" by Regina Spektor. This is probably one of her more — um — explicit songs, but I love every song by Regina Spektor. Anyways, if you listen to that song, you understand that there are a lot of times in people’s lives that they remember fondly while questioning “Why did I even do that?”
Well, the time that I question the most was my period of vegetarianism. I was a die-hard vegetarian for all of 2012 — in fact, it was my New Year’s Resolution (the only one I’ve ever actually kept). I had a few vegetarian friends and I wanted to lose weight and I just thought, “Hey, don’t eat meat.” So I didn’t.
It was definitely an interesting experience. I overloaded on carbs and ate raw vegetables far too infrequently. Amid all the grilled cheeses and pasta, I did manage to lose some weight — besides the protein deprivation, I really don’t understand how that happened.
So I kept at it for a year. Finally, I decided that it was time to eat meat again — but I kept going strong until the very end of 2012. Frequently I’ve asked myself what I learned from that experience — today I’m going to compile all the most important lessons.
The first thing that I learned is that I can put myself through an inconvenience and not think twice about it. Not eating meat when my family was pretty carnivorous was definitely a challenge. But for some reason, I set my mind to it and it was actually possible. I understand that vegetarianism is a pretty easy diet compared to veganism and many others where you have to know exactly why you aren’t drinking sweet tea or eating this cheese that is yellow, but I did learn that I can put myself through anything if I set my mind to it.
I learned how to cheat my brain. It was kind of a fun experience, actually. If I craved a hamburger, I’d go to the store and find some extremely processed vegetarian “ground beef” and cook a hamburger. Or bacon. Or even, one time, meatloaf. Let me just say that it was disgusting. But it worked the trick — after I ate those terrible substitutions, that’s what my brain would remember bacon, meatloaf, burgers, etc., tasting like. It was pretty easy not to crave soy meatloaf. I learned that sometimes the best way to do uncomfortable things is to trick your brain into liking them.
I learned that meat is good. Except steak and bacon — I actually don’t eat either of those anymore. Yes, there are lots of problems with the meat industry that I prefer to remain ignorant about. There are lots of problems with the meat industry that, unfortunately, I now know and think of every time I bite into a piece of chicken. I learned that sometimes, you have to pick your battles. And for right now, in Small Town, Alabama, not eating meat is a battle I don’t want to fight.
And considering that today is July 4th, I’m pretty excited to celebrate America’s birthday with a nice barbecue sandwich.
So I know I’m definitely not Tyler Oakley or Charlie McDonnell, but this little blog has gotten much more attention than I thought it would. Here (in the form of a list, of course) is a much greater and larger introduction about myself that you just can’t get on Facebook or Twitter. (I’ll try not to repeat too much of what I’ve already posted about.)
- My full name is David Jackson Barnett. It’s completely unoriginal. David derives from my mom’s older brother who was killed in a car accident when she was 17. Jackson is my dad’s middle name also. Barnett, obviously, comes from my dad as well.
- I love school. I love school a lot. I’m obsessed. My GPA is a 99.6 and I take every standardized test I can. Like, seriously, how many kids in Alabama take the SAT? (If you’re reading this and you’re not from Alabama, the answer is “not many.”) I can’t wait to go to college. I really can’t wait to apply to college. Hurry up, August 1st.
- I play piano. I hate practicing. At one point in my life, I genuinely thought I wanted to be a classical musician. And then I realized how much I hate classical music. In retrospect, it’s pretty funny. Actually, a lot of the humor isn’t retrospective — I signed up for my ACT and College Board accounts as a student interested in majoring in music, so that dark time in my life revisits quite often… every time I take another standardized test — which, as I said above, is quite frequently.
- The only music I can listen to peacefully is Broadway. “Why?” you ask. I shall tell you why. I play piano by ear (as well as sight-reading). I can hear any song with a distinct melody and replicate it — sometimes, almost exactly — on a piano. Naturally, every song I hear, I play the melody and chords in my head. Sometimes it’s pretty tiring… except with Broadway music. It’s simply too complicated for my ear to unravel. I can listen to show tunes without my brain working overtime to translate the songs to piano. If you’ve ever wondered why I’m a show tunes junkie, that would be the reason.
- My absolute favorite subject is English. I consider myself a grammar nazi. I am a firm believer that any form of writing will achieve its point if its grammar is flawless — that way, readers have no reason to navigate through misplaced commas and unneeded conjunctions. Readers can just look for the point in peace. I’m a big fan of peace. You can probably tell by now.
- Speaking of peace… I’m pretty liberal. I support equality and I’m pro-choice. I know that political views aren’t something that you typically share — but I’ve already shared them once on here and there’s not much more damage I could do. I’m not going to explain my views right now, because, as my Papa (my grandfather) likes to say, “Jackson argues with himself.” And I just don’t feel like getting mad at myself right now.
- I love taking pictures. Yes, I’ll refer to myself as a “photographer” if that’s what you like, but I’ll never call myself one. I’m definitely an amateur. I hate when people ask to pay me because it really is just a hobby. I love working with Photoshop and learning how to shoot in manual settings and just everything, really. I’m no artist anywhere but behind a Yamaha or a Canon D-SLR.
- Well, I clearly have an obsession with lists.
Thanks for reading.
Today, I toured Auburn University’s campus, I met with my admissions counselor, and I toured some dorms with my lovely friend Paige. It was a grand experience. I originally intended to tour alone, but Paige texted me and asked if she could tag along. We ended up making a great trip out of it. Here are a few things I’m thankful for after touring Auburn (in the form of a list, because we all know I love lists):
- Mom and Dad. I can’t express my gratitude for these guys. They get so many cool points as parents. Why? Because they set me free. Sort of. I mean, I still live with them and all that, but today was all about me. Which is why these guys didn’t tag along. I drove to Auburn, met with the admissions counselor myself, set up the tour myself, and had no help from either of them. Some might say that that’s bad parenting but those silly people wouldn’t understand — this is my parents’ way of pushing me out into the world and making decisions for myself. I honestly will never know if my parents would’ve set up campus tours of colleges because I know that they expect me to handle it on my own (well, my mom did set up a tour of NYU while we’re in New York, and it was totally excusable for mom to set up that tour because it’s borrowing from our family vacation time). This unsaid, unwritten push from my parents has already taken a huge effect on me — I’m responsible for asking counselors the questions I need to know to prepare for my college experience. Also, because of this push, I’ve set up a tour of Vanderbilt University — I have to say that my parents’ unconventional way of getting me to make decisions for myself is pretty fantastic. Love you guys.
- My grandfather, Papa. I love Papa. He’s fantastic. Let me share with you my ACT story. When I was in tenth grade, I scored a 27 on the ACT. I was literally ecstatic for months. I decided that I could hold off on taking the test for another year, and when I took it again as a junior, I only went up one point to a 28. I was absolutely 100% depressed and I called my Papa. Of course, his immediate response was that he was proud of me anyways, and then he offered to enroll me in a prep course for the next test (and pay the fee). So when my 31 happened, I was pretty darn grateful. Of course, I studied my butt off and he would say that I earned it myself, but Papa’s determination and encouragement (and finances) for me to do well definitely helped. A lot. It’s important to note that my 31 consisted of: a 36 in English, 30s in both Reading and Science, and a 27 in Mathematics. Why are those important? Because today at Auburn, I learned that I qualify for (and am basically guaranteed) a full tuition scholarship at a 31. Also, scoring a 35 or a 36 on English earns me 6 credit hours in English 1100 and 1120 (English Comp 1 and 2). So, Papa, even though you would say it was all me, I beg to differ — you can definitely take some credit for my test scores. And if I do attend Auburn, you can also take credit for investing in my tuition. Which is pretty awesome. Also, remember that Vanderbilt tour I mentioned earlier? Papa agreed to accompany me. Thanks for everything that you do to encourage the best possible education I could earn. You’re amazing.
- Paige and other friends. I have some of the greatest friends. And amazingly, they’re all college-bound. It’s so encouraging to grow academically around people who have good test scores and good taste in music as well. I’m really quite thankful for everyone who has ever encouraged me to follow my dreams. I’m also even more thankful for those of my friends who have looked to me for guidance in following theirs. People who do that encourage me to keep my information up to date and straight — by helping you guys, I help myself too. I’m not exactly successful yet, but I’m happy to be on the road to success with lots of great friends. And thanks for accompanying me today, Paige. You’re really cool.
And — done.
Go to college, guys. I think I’m going to love it.
I really wanted to post about this yesterday, but with most of Alabama standing on a different side than me, I didn’t feel like it was appropriate to discuss what I feel. But then I realized that this is my blog, and I can post what I want to (of course, I really don’t intend to offend anyone — this is just my personal opinion and why I feel that way).
Here’s my claim: I am 100% supportive of gay marriage.
I’m 0% supportive of a so-called “contract” between gay people supported by many conservatives. This contract that many people support includes an agreement between gay partners for tax and insurance purposes.
As Ellen so eloquently said to John McCain so many years ago, it really just sounds like our gay brothers and sisters are playing the part of Rosa Parks and being forced to sit somewhere else in the whole marriage thing.
Now, here are some of the typical arguments against gay marriage and my response to them:
- Gay marriage disrupts the sanctity of marriage. Traditional marriage is between one man and one woman. Okay, really? Folks, read your Bibles — Solomon had several hundred wives and King David had his fair share as well. If we want to revert to the original sacredness of marriage, I need to go get myself about 20 wives. The statement that traditional marriage is between a single man and a single woman is Biblically unsupported. Therefore, that argument is invalid.
- Gay marriage should not be allowed because children need two parents — a mother and a father (watch this video). Okay, Mr. Conservative — why do kids need both a mother and a father? I can name plenty of incredibly successful people who grew up without a mom or a dad. Let me just say that being a sperm donor doesn’t make a man a father. Expelling a baby from your birth canal doesn’t make a woman a mother. Parents are made when they deliver unconditional love to their children. Honestly, what does a baby care if his or her parents are the same sex? Different sexes? What does he or she care if there’s just one? What difference does he or she know? A baby that receives love and care “keeps them off the streets,” not a baby that has a mother and a father. If there are more babies being loved and less babies in orphanages and adoption centers… really, what does it matter?
- Gay marriage compromises family values. Yet people can still get like six divorces in the same state.
- God won’t bless a gay marriage. I don’t exactly agree with this, but let’s say that it’s true. If the Christian God does not bless gay marriages, is he going to bless marriages of different faiths? We probably shouldn’t allow Muslims, Hindus, Scientologists, or atheists to get married, then, should we?
- Being gay isn’t natural. People choose to be gay. Did you choose to be straight? Did you one day wake up and say to yourself, “I’ve been asexual up to this point, but today, I’m going to recognize my sexual desires. Here’s a coin — ‘heads’ I like girls, ‘tails’ I like boys.” No, I’m pretty sure that if you’re straight, you’ve never had a need to tell yourself to like people of the opposite sex. Why should it be any different for gay people? And, more than that, as a self-identified straight person, what gives you the right to determine someone else’s sexual orientation? How should you know what they’re going through?
I honestly didn’t mean for this to be a post of arguments. I guess when you stand for a side that is so historically a minority, you get defensive. But I will say this, proudly:
My name is Jackson Barnett, and one day, when I marry the woman of my dreams, I hope my gay brothers and sisters across America will have the privilege to enjoy the same marriage and the same legal benefits as I will enjoy.
We humans love too much.
We drink lots of alcohol until we start throwing up. We talk until we’re hoarse. We eat until we can’t move.
We love too much.
Now, some of my examples are extreme, but they fit the purpose: Everyone has something in their life that they love too much to just do it in moderation. Sometimes, they may not have access to this thing that they love for a long period of time — when it returns, they binge and get sick of it.
What am I talking about? No, I’m not an underage alcoholic. I’m talking specifically about my piano.
As most of you guys know, I was out west for ten days with my church group. I played the piano for some of the concerts that we did — however, I played the same song every single time (with the one exception of the church in the Grand Canyon that asked me to play both a prelude and an offertory). This is not the same as playing freely.
So finally, today, I had no more church activities regarding the trip. I don’t have to play that song I played ever again — better yet, I don’t have to practice or play anything I don’t want to for right now. And, coincidentally, I’m currently home alone for a few days… which means that I’m going to throw wild parties and go look for my parents’ nonexistent liquor cabinet in Narnia so I can abuse it. Not really. It just means that I can play the piano as much as I want.
I started with the Wicked song book (as many of you know, I have an obsession with that musical). I played straight through. While nobody was home, I played ”Defying Gravity,” and I probably burned about 500 calories with the force I exerted on my poor little instrument.
And then I hit a wall. Nothing I played after that sounded good. Everything was hollow, everything was shallow, none of the tones fit together nicely, and I couldn’t express anything.
I’m having a musical hangover.
Trust me, there’s nothing I want more than to take advantage of the time I’ll have alone in my house and play some beautiful music. But I just know I’ll get upset with myself because the music isn’t beautiful right now.
Are there things that you just can’t do in moderation? Things that you love dearly, but you abuse them? Maybe it’s reading. Maybe it’s your Granny’s chicken casserole (oh wait, that’s me too). Maybe it’s school. I don’t know what it is, but sometimes, we just need to slow ourselves down.
I’m probably not going to be playing the piano for about a week. Oh well.